Since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan last August, religious freedom conditions in the country have deteriorated. The fundamentalist group has instituted a strict system of Islamic rule, making it nearly impossible for Afghans to openly identify as Christian.
A report released by advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) shows that targeted killings and other forms of persecution against Christians have increased. The Taliban has several methods for identifying Christians, including monitoring mosques for individuals who do not attend and confiscating cell phones to read emails and text messages. Most of the Afghan Christian community has been forced into hiding, “operating as a loosely connected network of house churches.”
Christian Afghan females are perhaps the most oppressed group under the Taliban’s rule. Not only are they attacked for their faith, but they have lost all rights to personal autonomy.
“Most secondary schools for girls remain closed and many women have lost their jobs, while others lack the required male guardian to accompany them when they venture out of their homes,” according to The UN Refugee Agency. “With many women no longer able to earn a living, families have become further impoverished and young girls are being forced into marriage.”
Release International, a U.K.-based group monitoring Christian persecution, notes that “the persecution of Christians is continuing unabated,” but also points out that “there are early signs that the Christian faith could be growing among Afghans despite—or because of—violent persecution.”
ICC estimates that there are 10,000 to 12,000 Christian converts throughout Afghanistan, making it the country’s largest religious minority group.
“You might have heard, a year ago after the fall of Kabul, that every follower of Christ in Afghanistan had fled the country, been killed or was hiding while trying to get across the border. This is simply not true,” Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio, said in a statement to The Christian Post.
“Bold believers in Christ intentionally made the decision to stay in the country—knowing full well their lives were at risk—to serve their countrymen and to continue to share the Gospel,” he added.
Shoaib Ebadi, president of Square One World Media, a Christian media organization, told Voice of the Martyrs Canada that Afghans are “eager to hear about new things because their way of life that has continued for centuries has not brought peace or forgiveness, and the people are not prospering.
“The growth of the church in Afghanistan in the next five, 10 years will be 10 times more than what’s happened in Iran,” he predicted. “We do not know exactly what is going on … but from the past experience, I can say that the Lord is at work. New people [are coming to Christ] every day.”
Above: On Aug. 15, the Taliban and its supporters held a demonstration in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to celebrate a year of Taliban rule in the country.
Photo: Shekib Mohammadyl/UPI/Newscom